Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sedili Mega Loop Ride

Rain, heavy showers, and thunderstorms, harbingers of the year-end monsoon season, delayed this ride by almost 3 weeks.

While meteorological forecasts for Singapore are not indicative of conditions in Malaysia, fair weather is preferable during the ride to Changi; that way, I won't have spend an hour on the ferry in wet clothes.

The forecast for Friday, November 2nd, 2007, was the break I needed.

Map of this ride (hat tip to Jan Boonstra and Rick Ross). The blue line represents Day 1; red, Day 2. Yellow boxes reflect highway numbers. Note that the official map does not reflect the bridge to Sedili Kecil from the south.

Growing up, I had always loved maps. Who can forget a childhood with a spade, a bucket, and a pirate's treasure map torn from the back of a cereal box, and endless afternoons searching for treasure on a beach? There's a certain kind of magic within maps; they hold the promise of realities which one always hopes the best for, but may never fully dare expect. It is the delicious anticipation of this uncertainty, where the abstract meets the real, that makes it a morsel I crave and vigorously work for. And, in instances where one's expectations are exceeded, cartographer's pen and traveler's sweat meld into a pastiche rich enough with memory and fable to last a lifetime of reminiscence.

In his critique of simulations, Jean Baudrillard dwells on the synergistic relation between the two:

Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — it is the map that engenders the territory . . .. But it is no longer a question of either maps or territory. Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference between them that was the abstraction's charm. For it is the difference which forms the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real. This representational imaginary, which both culminates in and is engulfed by the cartographer's mad project of an ideal coextensivity between the map and the territory, disappears with simulation, whose operation is nuclear and genetic, and no longer specular and discursive.

(Baudrillard, Jean.  Selected Writings.  Ed. Mark Poster.  California: Stanford UP, 1998.  166.)

Sometimes, it is just the joy of a little boy when he digs up a dropped coin on a beach, veracity of his cereal box treasure map notwithstanding. Sometimes, it is not what we find, but what, in the process, we discover within.

6 AM:  outside Changi Ferry Terminal.

  30, Changi Ferry Road,
  Changi Ferry Terminal
  Singapore 499675
  Tel: 6546-8518
  Fax: 6546-8675

No, the dreaded Indonesian haze isn't back. My camera lens is dirty. This will plague my other pictures. Be advised.

The gates do not open until 6:30 AM. Then, I discovered that their new schedule is not reflected on their website. The first ferry to Tanjung Belungkor on Fridays is now at 10:00 AM, not 7:15 AM. Gee... thanks, guys! Malaysia Boleh!

Refusing to sit and wait from 6:30 AM until 10:00 AM, I rode west along Changi Coast Road (again) to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to catch the 7:55 AM ferry to Sebana Cove.

  Indo Falcon Shipping
  Tel: 6275-7393
  Fax: 6276-1753
  Malaysia: 607-826 6688

Passage on Indo Falcon's Bahtera Express (schedule) makes the Cruise Ferries' Belungkor ferry cheap in comparison: SG$29.20 + $10 for a bicycle. I would not take this ferry again if I can help it. Note: the staff are not trained to handle bicycles. When I climbed to the top deck, I saw Ivy leaning precariously against one of the railings, her seatpost rattling against the steel railing, in tune to the engine vibrations. Thanks for the scuff mark on my nice titanium seatpost, guys!

Tanjung Pengelih jetty. If all goes as planned, I would reach this place tomorrow afternoon.

Met a colleague of Dominic's, Takin, on the ferry. He was on his way to Sedili Kecil to surf.

Make a left upon leaving Sebana Cove Marina (Thanks, Takin!).

Sebana Golf & Marina Resort
LB 505, Kota Tinggi Post Office
81900 Kota Tinggi, Johor Darul Takzim
Tel:  607-826 6688 Ext 774
Fax: 607-826 6677
        607-826 6054

A quiet road meanders 2.9 miles (4.6 km) towards highway 92.

Don't let the sign deter you. This is nothing compared to what lies ahead. *muffled laughter*

A note of caution: a sharp left turn exists at the bottom of the hill.

Northbound highway 92: this is a busy road, watch out for large trucks. There is a gas station, with a mini mart, 12.2 miles (19.5 km) away.

6.25 miles (10 km) later: junction with highway 89, which leads to Tanjung Belungkor.

Another 5.95 miles (9.5 km) later: a Petronas petrol (gas) station at the junction to Desaru. 'Refilled with 3.6 liters of 100 Plus here.

Making a right here brings one to Desaru.

Check out this guy's "modified" brakes. Observe the actual amount of sweep area afforded by his "improved" front brake. Potential Darwin Award Nominee, anyone?


Making a right on to highway 99.

This brought back memories of a previous ride.

1.25 miles (2 km) on, there's a place to top up with water at a bakery (far left). After this, the next place to purchase water would be the junction with RKT Lok Heng, 8.6 miles (13.8 km) away.

Oh yes, it's warm. 91° F (32.8° C) warm.

(All right, so it wasn't 40° C like I told crufty, but... BUT on the daftbitch scale, it would be 40° C :-D )

Here's a useful tip if you run out of water whilst riding in Malaysia and are desperate. Water mains often run along roads. Their fittings often leak. Those above ground are easily spotted and rectified, but not those below ground level. The cover slabs are painted blue and can be removed by a person of average strength.

While it's not exactly Perrier™, the water is potable. Click to hear what it sounds like.

Yes, I often feel like this.

21.9 miles (35 km) from the Petronas station at the junction to Desaru.

While this gas station has no mini mart, there is a store behind it. Banana lovers, rejoice!

Lunch:  one spicy daging lembu (beef) bun and gulps of 100 Plus.
I also restocked with 3 liters of 100 Plus.
The weight of pack, at 11.3 lbs (5.14 kg), made the Moots Tailgator Rack and Bag a tempting proposition for future rides.

Post-lunch siesta fiesta. Self-flagellation fiesta, that is.

After restocking with 6.6 lbs (3 kg) of water, and lugging it up 8.6 miles (13.8 km) worth of hills, the skies decide to open up and give me lots of water. Touring cultivates in one a fine sense of humor.

On the plus side, temperatures dropped to 75° F (23.9° C). Upon inquiring where I rode from (Dari mana?), and hearing, "Sungai Rengit," the old man manning the roadside fruit stall sagely opined, "Jaul!" (It's far!). I deadpanned, "Saya gila!" (I'm mad!), and we shared a laugh, across generations and cultures, under the deluge.

After 20 minutes, judging that I couldn't wait any longer or I may end up riding in the dark, I thanked the old man for his hospitality and left the shelter.

43.6 miles (69.8 km) from Sebana Cove, the junction of highway 99 and highway J212. Time:  3:20 PM. Making a right, eastbound, here.

The intensity of the rain varied; when it got too heavy, and I risked being invisible to big trucks, I sought shelter under these ubiquitous ramshackle fruit stands by the road.

For bicycles, traction is not an issue, but deep potholes hidden by water, pose a significant hazard.

This provided some light relief. Before this, there was Kampung Sayang (Oh, what I would give to have my aching legs receive some sayang!), but it was raining too heavily then to whip out my camera.

So, there was I, riding, long-suffering, in the pouring rain, thinking I'm some hardcore cyclist. Then, as I crested a hill, a legion of school kids passed me in the opposite direction, on their clunky singlespeed bicycles, in their songkok and tudong, soaked to the skin, riding home.

This serves as a memorable counterpoint to the deluge of unsolicited objections, admonishment, and cautions I received while planning this ride. That they were all delivered with the utmost sincerity and with my best interests in mind, I have no doubt. But intent is no synonym for veracity (and we all know what the road to Hell is paved with). The majority of Singaporeans grew up in a hothouse (and most continue to do so). They expect everything to be convenient; to be sanitized, made safe, for them. Heck, they can't even clear their own trays after meals. As a result, when they move outside this comfort zone, they become afraid.

Afraid that they would get lost. Afraid that they would get robbed. Afraid that there won't be a place to sleep. Afraid that their bicycles might breakdown. Afraid that their support vehicle might breakdown. Afraid that their mobiles (cell phones) might go out of range. Afraid that their tights might shrink too tight if it rains. Afraid that they might miss a speech by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew when they are overseas, et cetera.

IMHO, being reasonably safe is just a matter of being street-smart. I.e. not being a jackass, pissing off the locals; and avoid flashing your wealth. E.g. the locals in Pengerang are struggling to pay for the rise in the prices of necessities — petrol, diesel, milk, chicken, vegetables, and bread — and you are strutting around with your Pinarello, and clucking, "Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!" like some kind of plucked, obnoxious, atas Big Bird with an untreatable case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Real smart move, Einstein. May I suggest hanging a beef medallion round your neck the next time you go hiking in mountain lion territory?

Kampong Sentosa.

After another 11.4 miles (18.3 km) of wet riding, the junction to Sedili Besar. There's no mistaking this being a fishing town: the smell of fish permeates everything. Make a right on to J213 towards Sedili Kecil here.

7.5 miles (12 km) to Sedili Kecil. This road is picturesque and quiet, dotted with small, isolated hamlets. Noiselessly, unnoticed, I moved across the landscape like a ghost, in the pelting rain. At one point, I spied four young kids sitting and playing where a small stream joins the sea, ensconced in their own little worlds, regaling in the downpour. I thought of waving, but then, they were gone.

Sedili Kecil.

1.8 miles (2.9 km) further south, just before the bridge, is Sedili Country Resort. Time:  5:20 PM.

       Sedili Country Resort
       Tanjung Sedili, Sedili Kecil,
       81910 Kota Tinggi, Johor
       Tel: 07-891-8405
       Booking: 07-332-1555
       Fax 07-331-1444

Hat tip: Peter.

Heat, sweat, and rain, from 4 AM to 5:30 PM: what I saw when I removed my gloves.

Day 1
Distance: 92 miles (147.28 km)
Elevation climbed: 3190 feet (972.6 m)

I took a shower, washing away the road grime, rinsed my clothing, wolfed down the remaining beef bun, and slept the sleep of the dead from 7 PM to 7 AM.

Day 2.

After a hearty breakfast of roti canai (washed down with liberal quantities of coffee and milk tea) at a roadside stall about 1.25 miles (2 km) north along the same road, towards Sedili Besar, and a pleasant chat with the owner of the resort, in the idyllic village of Sedili Kecil, I continued my journey south toward Desaru.

Bridge over Sedili Kercil. Avoid the road shoulder here: as the villagers often fish from the bridge, discarded fish hooks lie strewn on the asphalt. A picture someone else took from the north bank of the river, further east, towards the South China Sea.

The next 19.4 miles (31 km) is quiet, even ruminative: apart from the whispering wind; the crash of waves, a mere glance away; the soft hum of muscle-fueled tires skimming black asphalt; and the occasional shriek of a monkey caught by surprise; there is room to think just be.

As I had once confessed to someone dear to me, though I occasionally participate in group rides, it is only during solo endeavors that I'm in my element. It is only during solos that the activity is stripped down to its barest essentials — its purest form. No Indian chiefs, mindless sheep, fawning eunuchs, or scheming, conniving, whining, drama queens. Just yourself. There is no room for pretense. No room for codependency. No place for power struggles or politics. No need for compromises.

This is not about control — for I take no pleasure in leading — this is about freedom.

Nena Holguín, describing Reinhold Messner, "People don't think of it as easier, but it's easier sometimes to do things alone because there is nobody you have to cooperate with, as long as you can get past the aloneness. He likes to do things exactly at his own pace and his own style. It's easy to do things alone if you already know you can do them. He trusted himself."

(Alexander, Caroline.  "Greatest Mountaineer."  National Geographic.  210.5  (2006):  63.)

Junction with Tanjung Balau. There are no stores here, but 0.9 mile (1.5 km) to the left lies Balau Bay Resort.

5 miles (8 km) to Desaru.

The road is not exactly flat, but it's not insurmountable either.

Junction at Desaru. At this point, I turned left and rode 1.9 miles (3 km) to Medan Selera Désa Food Court to refill my water bottles and have lunch.

Climbing back up, make a left to get on highway 90 towards Sungai Rengit. From here, it is 30.3 miles (48.5 km) to Tanjung Pengelih. Time: 12:00 PM.

Apropos the sign, isn't it amusing that the most important bit remains uncovered?

2.2 miles (3.5 km) later.

Temperatures climbed to 102 F (38.9 C), mandating several unplanned rest stops to cool off in the shade.

From this point until I reached Singapore, I took no pictures as I was too tired contending with stiff headwinds, the heat, a dwindling water supply, and the need to reach Tanjung Pengelih before 3 PM.

0.6 mile (1 km) from the jetty, giving in to thirst, I stopped for 3 minutes for an iced-tea at a roadside stall before arriving at Tanjung Pengelih at 2:45 PM. I am sure that Malay gentleman would remember that odd, tall Chinese guy literally inhaling his drink, finishing it even before he had time to give change  :-)

Back at Changi Village Park.

From Changi Village, it's 12.5 miles (20 km) to Cycle Craft. A round of beer with the guys (Okay, maybe a couple rounds :-P ), and then, it's another 15.6 miles (25 km) back to Upper Bukit Timah.

Total distance:  cyclo-computer 175.6 miles (280.9 km)
Total elevation climbed:  Altimeter 4720 ft (1439 m)
Temperature range:  71° F to 102° F (21.7° C to 38.9° C)
Fluids consumed:  7.9 liters of 100 Plus; 600 ml of water; 300 ml of iced-tea.

Ride conducted solo.


J said...

Just curious bud... you seem to do quite a bit of long distance riding, and majority on tarred roads. Both locally and back in the states. Why not just use a road bike, as the setup on your bike is pretty much configured as such?

For myself I ride pretty much everyday, but road rides are meant more for training up my offroading stamina. In the bay area, I noticed that you didn't ride Skeggs (off skyline blvd) or Waterdog (Belmont). Seems like you should have the stamina for offroading.. but not really your cup of tea?

-ben said...

Hi J,

It's been a while since we spoke :-)

Removed your email there so that it won't get harvested by spambots.

Why not just use a road bike, as the setup on your bike is pretty much configured as such?

You are right on the money, dude! I am patiently awaiting delivery of a road bike. As it is going to be a custom (my unusually long femurs demand a very slack seat tube angle), and I want full engraving, I have to wait a long time for it. At between 3.4 to 3.6 lbs (1546 grams to 1636 grams), it is not exactly going to be light but it will have rear rack capability, and it is going to be a beaut with all those stress risers... umm... engraving, I mean. Estimated ETA is Feb 2009. But, as they say, good things come to those who wait. :-D

Another plus: by the time I receive the frame, Campagnolo's new Ultra-Torque cranks, utilizing the Hirth Joint, would have either proven itself, or faded away like Shimano's ill-conceived Biopace chainrings :-P

In the bay area, I noticed that you didn't ride Skeggs (off skyline blvd) or Waterdog (Belmont). Seems like you should have the stamina for offroading.. but not really your cup of tea?

Oh, somehow I never got the chance to do Skeggs. I did stop by the parking lot once during a ride along Skyline Boulevard though. That, and more than a few people told me that Skeggs is more fun on a full suspension bike. Maybe next time, I guess.

As for Waterdog, nope, haven't done that either. 'Wished I spent more time exploring Henry Coe though, but I didn't feel confident enough to go bashing solo across that park then.

I started off with off-road, and I think that's still going to be my first preference within the different types of cycling. It's easier to dodge stationary trees and rocks than moving trucks and homicidal taxi cabs.

Enjoy the wonderful fall weather!
Fall in North California is perfect riding weather :-D